Blinn, C. (1995) Teaching Cognitive Skills to Effect Behavioral Change Through a Writing Program. Journal of Correctional Education, 46(4), 146-154.
Author Affiliations: Emerson College
Artforms: Bibliotherapy, literature, writing
Program: Writing for Our Lives
Program Description: Writing for Our Lives used daily journal entries, weekly writing assignments and weekly classroom discussions to shift offenders’ self-identity from pro-criminal to pro-social, and to enhance problem-solving skills and impulse control. Short stories were used as “a basis for discussion of point of view regarding empathy, how the characters’ peer associations impact their lives, the life changes exhibited by the characters, and possible alternative solutions to problems encountered by the characters” (p. 147). The curriculum was designed to complement the Correctional Recovery Academy (CRA) program of the Massachusetts Department of Correction.
Program (Study) Location: Northeastern Correctional Center, Concord, Massachusetts
Study Published: 1995
Participant Type: Adult male inmates
Sample Size: 54
Data Type: Qualitative: instructor observations, participants’ written evaluations
Evaluation Focus: Research questions:
● Will offenders record prosocial behaviors on a daily basis? Will they
demonstrate increased prosocial behaviors after self-monitoring?
● Will participating in Writing for Our Lives enable offenders to change their self-identities from procriminal to prosocial? Will participation raise their sense of self-efficacy as writers? Will participant’s appreciation for the prosocial activity of writing increase?
● Will offenders master a model for concrete problem solving [“THINK FIRST”]? Will offenders demonstrate consequential thinking after learning the THINK FIRST method?
● Will offenders develop social perspective-taking skills through discussing the point(s) of view from which the assigned short stories are told?
● Will offenders make use of their knowledge of reading – or writing-related community activities after their release (p. 150)?
Summary of Impact:
● Offenders recorded prosocial behaviors on a daily basis and appeared to demonstrate increased prosocial behaviors with regard to this assignment (p. 150).
● Participation enabled offenders to begin (or continue) the process of changing their self-identities from procriminal to prosocial (p. 151).
● Significant increase in offenders’ sense of self-efficacy as writers (p. 151).
● Many offenders appeared to have mastered a model for concrete problem-solving and the ability to think consequentially (p. 151).
● Participants exhibited some measure of social perspective-taking skills when discussing the point(s) of view from which the assigned short stories were told (p. 152).
KEYWORDS: adult, behavior, bibliotherapy, consequences, identity, literature, problem-solving, pro-criminal pro-social, writing,
Writing for Our Live